To include Santa in our traditions or not is a very real question we have as Christians. This is how we handled this hot topic in our home.
One of my childhood memories at Christmas was when my dad pulled out our World Encyclopedia and read to us the story of St. Nick, the story of Christmas and then he would end by reading the birth of Jesus from the Bible.
Even after my dad first told us that Santa was inspired by a man named St. Nicholas who died in the 3rd century, I still wanted to believe in Santa. So I did. My parents had told me the truth but I chose to pretend that he did exist all on my own.
Why I Believed in Santa
I was probably around 4 or 5 years old and someone knocked on the back door of our 2nd floor home. I ran out to see who it was and I didn’t see anyone. All I saw were gifts at our door steps. I looked to see who it could be but there was no one there. It was snowing and slippery so no one could’ve taken off so quickly and no tracks were left in the snow. So, I spent many nights pondering how those gifts got there. My conclusion was it only proved that Santa DID exist.
Needless to say, eventually I realized Santa did not go down your chimney to bring you presents. I eventually out grew my belief in Santa and I had no hard feelings towards my parents for telling me the truth about Santa from early on.
But I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with our kids.
Then I Had Kids
Years later, we were watching a movie with our 16 month old and 4 year old at Christmas time and the main character was Santa.
When the movie was over, those curious brown eyes were staring hopeful at us wanting to know about Santa. Our oldest was very aware why we celebrated Christmas because we had been doing our Christ Focused Christmas ADVENTures each day but he wanted to know more about this man who brought gifts to children.
So my husband and I looked at each other wondering what to tell them. Up to this point, we had not discussed whether we were going to do Santa or not. My husband looked at me bewildered and I shrugged my shoulders.
That night we told our boys that Santa is a fictional character and we shared with them the beautiful story of Saint Nicholas. I found a short kid-friendly video and book that talked about his inspiring life.
The video clip ended and I thought we handled this well.
That is until my 4 year old asked, “Is Santa dead?”
Whoa! I was expecting that response.
After the initial shock I responded, “St. Nicholas was a man who lived a long, long time ago and he did die. But his generosity was the inspiration for Santa.
Santa is pretend. We can do pretend in this house.”
So he ran off with his little brother contemplating if Santa will make it to Ecuador.
The Magical Phrase that Solved Our Santa Dilemma
Every year after that they would ask similar questions about Santa and I would answer in the same way. Reminding them of the legacy Saint Nicholas, his kindness and charitable heart. Then I would remind them:
Santa is pretend and we can do pretend in this house.”
Just like I can do child-led pretend when I play with them, I can pretend there is Santa. Some days we live in a castle full of ice cream and pizza that suddenly gets attacked by a hungry dragon. Other days I’m in a race car that flies to Djoubti and is in time for dinner at our house. They lead our adventures with Santa and I curiously listen.
They know we are the ones who bring presents but they still insist on writing Santa a letter and some years they have even left out cookies out for him. We have never told them Santa was here or ate the cookies they left out and said Santa ate them. We never asked them to write Santa a letter or to leave cookies out for him but they still like to do these things and we do not prohibit them from doing it.
My younger boys are now 8 years old and 11 years old and just the other day they were writing Santa a letter. Later my youngest came to me and said, “If there’s no North pole where do those letter go to?”
So they know the truth but they still choose to engage in pretend play. I love watching their little minds whirl as they come to around to realizing what we’ve told them all along.
What We Don’t Do
We Do Not Tell Our Kids:
- Santa is making a list and checking it twice and he’s going to find out if you’re naughty and nice. We never use Santa to get our kids to behave.
- They need to earn their gifts. Rewards are earned but gifts are simply given. There is a difference between gifts and rewards. God gave us a gift. He gave us the gift of Jesus. We do not have to earn our salvation nor His love.
- Christmas is about Santa. Our kids know we celebrate Christmas because of Jesus it’s the focus of our celebration. Actually I found a fun book called Santa’s Favorite Story: When Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas
- Santa is real. I was not comfortable with the idea of telling our kids that Santa was real so we told our children Santa was inspired by a real person named Saint Nicholas. We like the book the Legend of St. Nicholas. Then we ended with– Santa is pretend and we can do pretend.
- To stop talking about Santa because he’s not real. We do not prohibit them from taking pictures with Santa.
- We do not tell them to write Santa a letter or leave out cookies for him.
I do realize this is a hot topic in the Christian world so do what suits your family.
With this “magical” phrase we were able to focus on Jesus as the reason for this season, tell them the truth about Santa and still let our kids play “Santa”.
If you choose not to go that route then don’t. What we have to remember in all of this is that December is about Jesus Christ not whether you like Santa or not, how many gifts you buy your children, if you have a real tree or a fake tree it all comes down to Immanuel–God with us!
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